Snyder & Gibbons Show off ‘Watchmen’
Warner Bros. is doing a tremendous amount of early publicity for March 6’s Watchmen release. They have dispatcheddirector Zack Snyder on tour, showing clips to the press and other parties first in London then last week in Los Angeles and last night in Manhattan. He and the clips will continue their tour to Europe and Asia in the coming weeks.
DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz kicked off the festivities by reminiscing about the days when pages for the comic would arrive from England. “It was an amazing book. We’d be waiting expectantly for the next batch of pages.”
He noted it was the first time in the company history a film option had been sold before the final issue had seen print. The series has continued to perform miraculous feats with Levitz going on to say that the company has sold more copies of the trade paperback since the trailer was unveiled on July 18 than in the last seven years even though it has topped the graphic novel sales lists for each of those years.
He then introduced Snyder who, dressed in sweater and jeans, chatted up the rapt audience before screening the first 12 minutes of the film, complete with titles. “I’ve always been a fan,” he admitted. “But I came from the Heavy Metal side. My Mom, I had a strange Mom, who bought me a subscription. She thought it was a cool looking magazine.” When he looked at comic books of the time in comparison, he was disinterested because no one was “fucking or dying, why am I looking at this?”
The Watchmen, which he admitted had a little of each, changed that for him as a reader. He never thought of it was a film until he was nearing the end of work on 300 and it was offered to him. Snyder then recounted his evolution with Warner Bros., which inherited the project from Paramount Pictures. They saw it as a modern day take on terrorism and while he considered it, the more he looked at the David Hayter script and the original graphic novel, the more he thought it needed to remain faithful. Slowly, he brought the studio around to his way of thinking while acknowledging the smash success of 300 by the time did not hurt his credibility.
After the opening sequence, he introduced the origin of Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). After the applause died down, he showed the final sequence which was Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre breaking Rorschach out of prison followed by some more quick clips, largely taken from the trailer.
When the lights went on, he introduced artist Dave Gibbons who joined him on stage for a question and answer session.
Much of the material covered previously known information but for the record: the movie will carry an R-rating, is currently cut to 2:42 which Snyder said was pretty close (“it might be tightened”), and will not carry Alan Moore’s name. To the latter issue, Gibbons said, “Alan has had experiences in the past he has not enjoyed” with adaptations and has asked his name be removed.
Dr. Manhattan, clearly Snyder’s favorite character, was tough to get right given the CGI animation required. He said two HD cameras filmed each scene as Crudup wore countless sensors on his face. “The challenge,” the director said, “was getting Billy’s performance on his face. It’s a super performance.”
Gibbons and Snyder talked about the adaptation from print to screen and Gibbons gushed over the owl ship rising from the water, looking exactly as he envisioned it as he drew the maxiseries.
“I’m unique in the world,” Gibbons said. “As I was reading the scripts, I had a mini-movie running in my head and I had to pick the scenes to illustrate. To sit in the theater and see my mind’s eye on the screen…well, it’s a really good movie. It’s taken the graphic novel by the scruff of the neck and put it on film.”
Snyder also said he looked at the text features that filled out each issue to find elements to include in the film, citing Dollar Bill getting his cape caught in a revolving door as one element. He talked further about having already shot the news vendor and the kid sequences which will be used for the Tales of the Black Freighter DVD coming out to coincide with the movie. He repeated his hope to one day cut everything together into one master version.
“This is a dense work of literature,” Snyder said of the adaptation process. “It’s not like No Country fro Old Men, but I was on my heels trying to get the characters on to the screen.”
“Truth is, there’s not a ton of action in the movie,” Snyder revealed. “When we felt it was appropriate we had an action sequence.”
Gibbons added, “Several images are designed to be iconic ones. Once in a while, you hold on an image, such as the Owl ship. The drawings were subtle and low key so the big establishing shots were used to establish the mood and character.”
On the subject of the music, Snyder recognized its important role in providing texture and emotional undercurrents. He’s delighted by the work from composer Tyler Bates along with Philip Glass on the Dr. Manhattan on Mars scenes. The use of Bob Dylan’s work was equally important and Gibbons revealed that he and Moore both thought of “Desolation Row” when working on the project. He said that the copy of the album he first heard it on was loaned to him by fellow classmate Tony Hendra, who went on to fame with the National Lampoon.
Gibbons said he was currently spending his time doing licensing and production work with the characters and isn’t thinking about his next project. When asked if he thought there was a sequel to be told, he said Warner could always use the Charlton action heroes (who were the initial ones in Moore’s first outline). He and Snyder agreed there was no sequel to film.
Snyder then talked about the downloadable video game that was in development. “It’s a subversive movie so the game has to be subversive,” he said. “It became an exploration of Watchmen lore and it’s the closest you’ll get to a sequel.”
Afterwards, the audience was invited to stay for a reception which included an adjoining room filled with costumes, props and production art from the movie.
Given the impressive screen clips and the fidelity to the source material, the road show seems almost superfluous. The comic book fans have been awaiting this movie for over a decade and the continued sales of the collection shows there’s an even larger audience ready for the event as well.